It's been a "providential escape" for lakhs of people who had been riding the Airport Metro line this year. For several months, trains had been running on tracks laid on damaged bearings, an inspection by the service operator revealed.
Keeping in view the safety of commuters, the concessionaire company, Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt Ltd (DAMEPL) — a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure — had initially restricted the speed of trains on the 6.5km elevated stretch about three weeks ago. But it finally decided to suspend the service from Sunday indefinitely.
Company sources said in view of the defects in Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) works, which have resulted apparently due to poor workmanship or faults in design, the continued operation of the project is not only unsafe but may be dangerous to the lives and property.
"Safety is paramount to us. We will now reinitiate the service only when the repair works by Delhi Metro are completed and safety nod is given by Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS)," said a DAMEPL official.
When the DAMEPL had observed the first year of operation the company officials had attributed this as a temporary phase caused due to 'routine inspection' of the system.
But the situation never improved. Rather the trains kept on losing momentum. Finally, a joint survey by DAMEPL and DMRC had reportedly identified major faults on the tracks.
"I was aware that there were some problems in the civil structure of the airport metro line. But I was not aware about the magnitude of the problem," said Rajiv Chaudhry, executive director (Works Planning), ministry of railways.
"There are 250-300 bearings in the civil structure, which are critical and may cause accidents if the services are not suspended immediately. Also rectification cannot be done properly unless traffic pressure is removed from the track," said an official.
"Whenever such problems occur, the usual practice is to impose restrictions on the vehicle loads and on the vehicle speeds. Some restrictions on the speed have already been imposed on the airport line also. But the main concern will be that of possible derailment especially if unacceptable deviations in the track alignment take place," said an official of Shirish Patel & Associates Consultants Pvt Ltd, a globally reputed construction major, which has recently conducted an inspection on the line.